Taken in by “The Music Man” at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre

by Elizabeth Griffin
( February 21st, 2013 )

The con 5thAve_MusicMan_06_credit_MarkKitaoka-600x349  ensemble 5thAve_MusicMan_07_credit_MarkKitaoka-600x350

When I heard that The 5th Avenue Theatre was putting on The Music Man it was like hearing about an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in years. My husband Jay and I immediately made plans to attend on Valentine’s Day.

The Music Man by Meredith Willson is one of the first musicals I experienced while growing up. The high school in my town put it on and it was magical. I sang the songs repeatedly after hearing them come to  life on stage — as I did with all songs that I loved — until I had memorized them. And I watched the movie many times, of course.

To briefly tell the story: The Music Man is about a con man (Prof. Harold Hill) who comes to a small Iowa town and convinces the citizens to buy instruments and uniforms for a boys marching band. Everyone is instantly charmed by Hill, except Marian Paroo (the librarian). Despite her resistance, the town is transformed by the dream of a band and … well, it’s a musical, so I’m just going to say that it ends happily and is a great deal of fun.

The show at The 5th was better than I ever remembered. From the opening scene of traveling salesmen on a train talk-singing in rhythm to the motion of the locomotive to the gossiping women in town who “Pick-a-little, talk-a-little” about Marian the librarian to the love song “Goodnight my someone” and  everything in-between, I was astonished at the genius of Meredith Willson. The man was ahead of his time!

Mrs. Shinn 5thAve_MusicMan_08_credit_MarkKitaoka-600x400  5thAve_MusicMan_01_credit_MarkKitaoka-600x359  Hill and Marian 5thAve_MusicMan_02_credit_MarkKitaoka-600x900

The show is quick and smart and funny. Noah Racey, a Roosevelt High School graduate who has been performing on Broadway for more than a decade, came home to dance impeccably and charm our socks off as Professor Harold Hill and Laura Griffith delights us with her rich voice as Marian the librarian. Laura Kenny is hilarious as Mrs. Shinn and Anne Allgood plays a steady Mrs. Paroo. Rising stars Joshua Feinsilber (the lisping Winthrop Paroo) and Abi Brittle (Amaryllis) are delightful.

Racey said, “I’m really feeling lucky,” when in rehearsal for The Music Man at The 5th. I think it took a great deal more than luck to put this show on — you can’t dance and sing and act like that without a heck of a lot of work. But audiences in Seattle really appreciate it. I know I did!

Perhaps the best compliment of all came from my husband who claims that he doesn’t like musicals. He said, “I liked it from start to finish and never got bored.”

The Music Man plays through March 10 at The 5th Avenue Theatre. Tickets start at $31 and may be purchased online at www.5thavenue.org, by calling (206) 625-1900, or at the Box Office at 1308 5th Avenue in Seattle.

All photos by Mark Kitaoka.

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